Home | Texts by category | | Quick Search:   
Works by Plato
Pages of laws (books 1 - 6)

Previous | Next

laws (books 1 - 6)   

man." But if he be unjust, I would not have him "look calmly upon
bloody death," nor "surpass in swiftness the Thracian Boreas"; and let
no other thing that is called good ever be his. For the goods of which
the many speak are not really good: first in the catalogue is placed
health, beauty next, wealth third; and then innumerable others, as for
example to have a keen eye or a quick ear, and in general to have
all the senses perfect; or, again, to be a tyrant and do as you
like; and the final consummation of happiness is to have acquired
all these things, and when you have acquired them to become at once
immortal. But you and I say, that while to the just and holy all these
things are the best of possessions, to the unjust they are all,
including even health, the greatest of evils. For in truth, to have
sight, and hearing, and the use of the senses, or to live at all
without justice and virtue, even though a man be rich in all the
so-called goods of fortune, is the greatest of evils, if life be
immortal; but not so great, if the bad man lives only a very short
time. These are the truths which, if I am not mistaken, you will
persuade or compel your poets to utter with suitable accompaniments of
harmony and rhythm, and in these they must train up your youth. Am I
not right? For I plainly declare that evils as they are termed are
goods to the unjust, and only evils to the just, and that goods are
truly good to the good, but evil to the evil. Let me ask again, Are
you and I agreed about this?
Cle. I think that we partly agree and partly do not.
Ath. When a man has health and wealth and a tyranny which lasts, and
when he is preeminent in strength and courage, and has the gift of
immortality, and none of the so-called evils which counter-balance
these goods, but only the injustice and insolence of his own nature-of
such an one you are, I suspect, unwilling to believe that he is
miserable rather than happy.
Cle. That is quite true.
Ath. Once more: Suppose that he be valiant and strong, and
handsome and rich, and does throughout his whole life whatever he
likes, still, if he be unrighteous and insolent, would not both of you
agree that he will of necessity live basely? You will surely grant
so much?
Cle. Certainly.
Ath. And an evil life too?
Cle. I am not equally disposed to grant that.
Ath. Will he not live painfully and to his own disadvantage?
Cle. How can I possibly say so?
Ath. How! Then may Heaven make us to be of one mind, for now we
are of two. To me, dear Cleinias, the truth of what I am saying is
as plain as the fact that Crete is an island. And, if I were a
lawgiver, I would try to make the poets and all the citizens speak
in this strain, and I would inflict the heaviest penalties on any
one in all the land who should dare to say that there are bad men
who lead pleasant lives, or that the profitable and gainful is one
thing, and the just another; and there are many other matters about
which I should make my citizens speak in a manner different from the
Cretans and Lacedaemonians of this age, and I may say, indeed, from
the world in general. For tell me, my good friends, by Zeus and Apollo
tell me, if I were to ask these same Gods who were your legislators-Is
not the most just life also the pleasantest? or are there two lives,
one of which is the justest and the other the pleasantest?-and they
were to reply that there are two; and thereupon I proceeded to ask,
(that would be the right way of pursuing the enquiry), Which are the
happier-those who lead the justest, or those who lead the
pleasantest life? and they replied, Those who lead the
pleasantest-that would be a very strange answer, which I should not
like to put into the mouth of the Gods. The words will come with
more propriety from the lips of fathers and legislators, and therefore
I will repeat my former questions to one of them, and suppose him to
say again that he who leads the pleasantest life is the happiest.

Previous | Next
Site Search